Friday, August 17, 2007

The Caltrans Murderers

Driving down to Irvine this morning -- about a 50 mile commute. Been a busy couple weeks, working 60 hours plus commute time -- fortunately next week looks quiet, because we all need that in my family ...

On the way down to Irvine I blew out my front left tire. Doing about 70 mph in the leftmost lane, heard not one but two distinct rifle crack bangs, and abruptly the car was pulling left really hard. Fortunately I've driven over half a million miles and I knew what to do -- while I still had some air left in the tire I drifted right across 5 lanes to get onto the side of the road. Called Triple A -- the best single investment you can make if you own a car -- and half an hour later they had a tow truck there to put on my spare and get me on my way.

Spent most of that time standing by the side of the road, about 10 feet back in a convenient spot of shade, watching people get off the freeway. At one point eight passenger cars went by, in a row, with eight women in identical postures: right hand on the top of the steering wheel, left hand up to the left ear.

So I started counting. (I count trains, too -- to this day the largest number I've ever counted was as a teenager, 153 cars, while sitting at a crossing on the way to Kaiser Permanente with a shattered eardrum.) While I was waiting for the tow truck, 313 cars (passenger cars, vans, SUVs -- non-commercial) and 38 trucks went by me on that offramp. I don't know how many of the truck drivers were on the job versus passenger, but I included all vehicles with a flatbed in the truck count.

140 of the 313 passenger cars had someone on the cell phone as they pulled onto that offramp. Two of the 38 trucks did. I didn't keep exact counts of the gender split, but women were far likelier to be on the phone than men.


A recent study shows that talking on your cell phone impairs your ability to operate a vehicle about as much as being drunk.


The other day I was driving down the 101 freeway and on one of the big signs they had the blinking message: "Call 911 to report drunk drivers."

Now ... our society is run by the clinically insane, that's true: but this has to be intentional. Some malicious yokel at CalTrans thought to himself, "I wonder how many people I can kill before they catch me?"

One drunk-who-should-be-horsewhipped gets on the freeway. An alert but foolish soul catches sight of him ... and gets on the cell phone to alert 911. While she's doing this, I'm going with "she" here because I counted this morning, two more alert Good Citizens are noticing her abruptly swerving around the road, bouncing over the Botts dots, endangering the lives and paint jobs of those around her ... so, having just seen the Sign of Doom, they get on 911: "There's a dangerous drunk on the road! And she's tailing another dangerous drunk!" And those two start staggering around the road while making their call, and pretty soon everyone within two miles is inundating 911 all at once, chattering away about the danger they're alertly observing, when the first drunk looks up at his rear view mirror and sees a shark's pack of hundreds of swerving maniacal drunks bearing down on him, and panics and stomps on the brakes, causing the biggest pileup in American history ... and some socipath at Caltrans sits there, watching the cameras, counting: 150, 151, 152, 153 ... 154! Screw Moran! Ha ha haaaaa......

Let's be careful out there. Lay off the cell phones and don't let Caltrans kill you.


Steve Perry said...

Standing next to a freeway in SoCal is as dangerous as working the night shift at a 7-Eleven in a bad neighborhood ...

And even the hand-off phones suck up a driver's attention. If I get a call, I pull over, and I don't make calls while I'm driving.

I used to love the L.A. freeway stories I heard when we lived there. A couple stick in my mind.
One involved a truck full of ball-bearings that flipped over and a CHP cop on a bike; the other was a woman who opened a box on the front seat her son had left and found a critter -- lizard or snake.

She screamed, pulled over, jumped out and was dancing around on the shoulder, hysterical.

A guy pulled over, thought she was having a seizure, so he tackled her and tried to shove an ink pen into her mouth to keep her from biting her tongue.

Another guy, thinking he was seeing a rape, stopped, leaped out, and began to beat the crap out of the first guy ...

Probably didn't happen, but it's a good story.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised with your numbers at al. I ride a motorcycle full-time, and it's often seemed to me (I've never actually taken the time to count, being rather occupied with driving) that half the people driving are talking on cell phones.

Thomas said...

After viewing a cellphone driver one time, I had to be physically restrained by my wife from doing some serious harm to the guy's car and my reputation as a pacifist and a general wuss.

The problem? He was talking on his cellphone while turning a manual shift car. I could see him flip hands, hold the phone with his shoulder, and shift it into first, then shift hands back, and do it again for second gear. I wouldn't have been so bothered if I wasn't the guy right behind him, hitting my brakes every time he pushed in the clutch.

Oh, and BTW, AAA is nice, but I now own a Kia, and it's hard to beat 10 years of warranty and road-side assistance included in the price of a pretty inexpensive car.

Dan Moran said...

Steve -- I used to ride a bike, until I crashed it and broke my right leg and did various other damage to myself. Once on the bike, I was merging onto the 101 freeway from the 10, this fairly sharp curve ... when I ran into a load of spilled oranges. I don't know if your ball bearing story is apocryphal, but oranges aren't a whole lot better. I got through it without flipping the bike, but it was a close one.

I suspect screaming rape lady is an urban legend. It has that feel.

Thomas -- yeah, but you have to drive a Kia. I suppose it's OK for you, you're married already, but have a thought for all the young men out there still competing for one, OK? We'll say no more about this.

Steve Perry said...

I quit riding motorcyles and scooters after I did a stint in an orthopedic ward in nursing school.

Half the beds were filled with bike guys, and all but one of them had been put there because they lost arguments with cars.

One guy had run out of gas, and while reaching down to flip the reserve lever, went off the road and hit a tree.

All the rest, nearly as I could tell, had been involved in accidents wherein they'd had the legal right of way.

The cotton-top old lady who could barely see over the top of her steering wheel who ran a stop sign and got T-boned by the guy on the Honda Scrambler was typical.

Car drivers either didn't see the bikes, or thought they could stop as if the thing were a bicycle ...

The two times a biker seems most likely to get hurt are either as a rank beginner, or after he starts to think he has this motorcycle-
riding biz down pretty well ...

Convertibles are safer, and you don't have to wear a helmet ...